By: Raza Haidery
KARACHI: Junoon guitarist Salman Ahmed recalled the glorious days of Pakistan music in a Karachi Literature Festival 2018 session held at Beach Luxury Hotel on Sunday.
The session named “Dil Dil, Boom Boom, JazbaJunoon: The Impact of Pop Culture on Pakistani Society and the World – Amin Hashwani in conversation with Salman Ahmad” kicked off with a video paying tribute to the pioneers of music industry in Pakistan namely Junaid Jamshed, Nazia and Zoheb Hassan along with Junoon.
A minute of silence was observed over the sad demise of renowned celebrity Qazi Wajid and human rights activist Asma Jahangir.
Answering a question regarding on being at a crossroad on whether he wanted to become a doctor, cricketer or a musician, Salman Ahmad said that he was brainwashed by his parents that the only way to gain respect was to have a noble career.
He said that the first video he saw as a teenager in the United States was NaziaHassan’s “Aap Jaisa Koi Meri Zindagi Mein Aaye”.
“Renowned Qawwal Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan told me – I would especially like to mention his name because my interest in Sufiism and Sufi poetry was sparked by Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan Sahab. So, when Peter Gabriel later performed with and recorded with..When I met him at Oxford in 2007 at a concert forum, I asked Peter Gabriel that how did you find Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. He said to me that the guitar player for ‘The Who’, which is one of the most famous Western rock bands, Pete Townsend, was a huge Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan fan and he had a dozen cassettes of Nusrat Fateh Ali’s qawwalis and the Sabri brothers qawwalis and he said that when he played that for me and I found that sound and voice and the message of the music so powerful that I had to contact him and when Peter did the soundtrack to the film ‘The last temptation of Christ (A.S)’ and Khan sang on that soundtrack for the piece ‘Passion’.”
He said, “So when I met Khan Sahab in 1990, I said to him..he was then 40 years old..I said that why it took so long in Hollywood..So, Khan Sahab said to me jokingly..he said look if you are a Pakistani artist then you need a foreign stamp.”
When being asked on the decision to mix Sufi music with rock music, he said that he wrote they came up with Dil Dil Pakistan when there was former army chief Zia-ul-Haq’s dictatorship, which was one of the worst in the country as many youngsters were committing suicide or doing. So they decided to portray a softer and much beautiful image of Pakistan. He went on to say that we have to walk our journey.
The musician stated that they dug deeper into the country’s poetry and rediscoveredour own roots and came up with the blend of Sufi Rock genre. Salman Ahmad said that Junoon has always been accepted by the audience.
Speaking on his friendship with Junaid Jamshed, the Junoon guitarist said they both had commonalities but their favoritism on certain aspects such as music were opposite. Ahmad added that they both educated each other about what they liked and that’s what great friendships are all about.
Salman Ahmad, speaking on his relations with former cricketer and current Chairman of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Imran Khan, he said that Khan and him were polar opposites as well.
“Just from the one aspect that I met my future wife at the age of 17. We both went to medical college and the first time I saw her my heart said marry her and Imran Khan said to me ‘Khuda ka waasta shaadi na karna’ (For God’s sake, don’t get married).
He was so dead against marriage yet I followed my heart,” he said. He said that he supports Imran Khan because what’s the harm in testing a new leadership when old leaders have been tested time and time again.
Ahmed said that he was selected for the first ever tour to Bangladesh when he was playing first class cricket in Lahore. He added that he was a medical student who got a lucky break to be with these great stars. He said that the the people of Bangladesh came to the airport to greet Imran Khan as he was a huge star there.
He said, “During that tour, I got to see him interact with people there and I got to see him as a captain and then I saw something which will never forget. You know, as I said I was an unknown player and the players treated me like minion. I didn’t mind. I was enthusiastic to be with such a great team but one thing that happen was I was told by seniors that you’re just lucky to be here to hyehnasochnake koi paisa milnelagahai (don’t think that you are getting paid). I went to Imran Khan..he was the captain and I knocked on his door and said ke I don’t mind getting the drinks and carrying all that stuff but whatever’s fair for everybody should be fair for me. So what your view on that? So he could’ve easily said that mujhay kyun tang kar rahe ho? (why are you teasing me). He called a team meeting with everyone and he said kedekhen (look) respect no matter who is inexperienced. Aapko respect har bande ko dena hai (you have to give respect to everyone). This is a team. They are not stars. Then he said ke what is the agreement on payment so Omar Quraishi sahab told him so he said ke everyone will be paid the same amount and he made it clear not just to me but to all the senior players as well. I was 21 and that had a huge impact on me.”
“I’ve seen that part of his just sticking to the role of law, accountability, fairness. That’s the reason I think would make a very good Pakistani leader,” he added.
The musician said that the image of Pakistan what the most Americans see on their media is negative such as terrorist attacks or attack on polio workers. He added, “The only other time I found Pakistan in the news was when Sharmeen Obaid won two Oscars, you know. If we want to convey if all of us collectively want to tell the world that there is something else besides terrorism, extremism and corruption in Pakistan..we have to collectively project our soft power.”
“We, collectively as a nation, have to realize that this is the way we define ourselves. We can’t define ourselves through nuclear bombs and to give you an example of how powerful music is..Nazia Zoheb when they went to India for just one song, the whole of India saw what great talent Pakistan has. When Ustad Nusrat Fateh Rahat Fateh went to India..you know..it shows you the power of one. When Junoon went to India and sang Sayonee, you knowSayonee is the most recorded Pakistani song in India? and there is a movie coming out this year titled Sayonee. There is an Indian fan who named her daughter Sayonee. So I am saying that we have a great soft power which we need to strengthen not in terms of status we give it but also through the business community.
Salman Ahmad said that only two Pakistani artists have been invited to the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony, him and Rahat Fateh Ali Khan.
Commenting on the reviews he got on Coke Studio’s rendition of Sayonee, Ahmad stated he couldn’t make Rahat Fateh Ali Khan sing like a rock singer. “You should open your heart and mind and watch that performance. I’m really realy proud of it, and by the way, it’s because of that performance that movie producer called me and said that I want to name my film Sayonee and its sits so powerfully.
“Criticism is part and parcel in life. We’re subjective and we have subjective views and you know that’s the beauty of democracy is and that’s what I believe music strengthens democracy, it promotes unity, it fights extremism and may a thousand flowers bloom”, the musician said.
He also performed several Junoon songs for the audience with Eman, Ayesha and Sajar, who had performed with him on Coke Studio.
Story first published: 12th February 2018